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The R 101 Airship Crash

Dreamed 1930/10/3 by R.W. Boyd

On October 3rd in 1930 I dreamed that I saw a large airship crash, after some preliminary difficulties in manoeuvring, on to the top of a hill and burst into flames. Many people were silhouetted against the bright yellow flames and were trying to escape, but none succeeded so far as I am able to remember.

The fact that the crash occurred on the top of a hill was very much impressed upon me as I very distinctly remember looking up a steep slope with the burning wreck above me.

While the wreck was still burning a small company of soldiers arrived under the command of an officer on horseback who was very excited and dashed about from place to place but was unable to help anybody.

Further details of the dream I am not able to remember clearly.

I awoke the next morning with my mind very full of what had happened in the dream and the very first thing I did was to see if the morning newspapers had any news of an airship disaster, with the airship R 101 in mind as this was just preparing for her flight to India. There was no account of any disaster and I decided that the dream was nothing more than a dream.

But on Sunday morning, October 6th, I learned with curious feeling that R 101 had crashed at Beauvais, less than 48 hours after my dream. You will probably be interested to learn that I related the dream to at least one person, my fiancée, between October 3rd and October 5th and she can corroborate the facts I have set out.

When later, photographs appeared in the newspapers and news reel films were shown, an officer on horseback was a prominent figure amongst those present and of course it is common knowledge that R 101 crashed into a hill after losing height through the effects of rain.

I wrote and asked if Mr. Boyd's fiancée would corroborate and received later the following letter from Miss Hare:

55 Gardenia Road,
Bush Hill Park,
19th September, 1934

Dear Madam,

I trust you will forgive my neglect in not writing to you as promised for so long, and believe me that it is not through lack of interest. I very much appreciate your study and feel sorry that I have not helped you by an earlier reply.

The following is my fiancé's dream as far as I am able to recollect. He related it to me the day after he had dreamed, and to my mind the significance of it is marked by reason of the events which followed three days afterwards, namely the disaster of the airship R 101.

He was standing at the foot of a high hill over which the sun appeared to be setting. There came into view an airship which, as it neared the hill, seemed to break into two pieces and was suddenly in flames. So vivid was it that he could discern the burning bodies of the people as they fell from the plane. He was conscious of policemen clothed in French uniform who arrived on horseback to help. He himself was powerless to assist as he felt as though he were watching apart. His own words were "Like a disembodied spirit." The dream was emphasised by the fact that when we visited a cinema the following week and saw a film of the R 101disaster, my fiancé was amazed to realise that the scene was almost identical with that of his dream, especially in the appearance of the French gendarmes who were shown examining the debris.

I find this all particularly remarkable, in so much that he is not a person who dreams often, and is usually quite unaffected by the small events which we are apt to call coincidence.

I must again apologise for the late arrival of this letter and I hope very much that it will be of use to you.

Yours sincerely,
Catherine Hare

As was announced in The Times of October 6th, the disaster to the R 101...happened on October 5th. On October 7th The Times contained the following:

...According to the clearest accounts I have heard from any of the survivors, the ship was flying normally--my informant did not know at what height--when her nose dropped until she was at an angle not much less than 45 degrees. This is nothing very unusual in an airship when there are vertical air currents about, and it did not alarm the crew. The five engines were running at cruising speed when this happened. In a few moments the ship was back on an even keel. Now, if her level flight was restored by the use of the elevators on her tail, the effect would be not so much to raise her head as to bring down her tail to the level of her head. The ship was over 700 ft. long; if she really dipped to 45 degrees--that is if it was her nose that fell and not her tail that rose--then her nose fell 300 ft. and when she flattened out she had lost about that much height. And if she had previously been flying at 500 ft. just below the clouds--she was now very near the ground. The space beneath her was less than one-third of her length.

The next manoeuvre would be to regain height by dipping the tail slightly, trimming the ship up by the head, and letting her climb. But before this could be done the ship, either as the result of structural failure a point on which the experts refuse to be definite at present--or because of a second downward gust, again dipped by the nose...

The ship hit the ground almost at cruising speed, say 50 knots. Her forward half was completely wrecked at once. The control car was smashed to pieces and thrust up into the hull....

The survivors know nothing of any difficulty with the altimeter. But the formation of the ground about Beauvais is peculiar. Just before she crashed R 101 had crossed a wide valley like a saucer, and it was the rim of the saucer she hit. It was pitch dark and raining. No trustworthy observer on the ground, so far as I know, has reported the ship's height, and several heard her without seeing her.

...The position of the men's bodies in the wreck did not suggest that they had more than a moment's warning of danger. They had not moved farther from their sleeping quarters and posts of duty than they might have done after the crash, before the fire overcame them. In the crew's quarters they were found huddled together near the gangway. Those in the cabins and in the control car were found entangled in the wreckage of that part of the ship. They were caught unawares by the crash and trapped before they could make for safety.

On October 6th the following paragraph appeared in The Times:
Directly after the crash all the available police and troops at Beauvais hurried to the rescue. As fast as the bodies could be got out of the wreck they were laid in a row along the outskirts of the wood and sheets were thrown over them. Eight bodies were still there this afternoon. All of them, as far as I could see, were practically unrecognizable.
In a picture in The Times of October 7th, 1930 of the wreckage, there is a mounted gendarme or soldier in the foreground.

The details in this premonitory dream are too exact to be due to chance. Of course it may be averred that the dreamer when he saw the Cinema picture subsequently confused it with his dream, and added details. But the main incident of the crash is I think definitely an example of precognitive dreaming.

--Edith Lyttelton

Source: Some Cases of Prediction by Dame Edith Lyttelton (1937); p.131-136

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